Rev John Langhorn (1744 - 1817)

The Rev. John Langhorn was the second missionary of Upper Canada (the first being John Stuart).   John Langhorn was a Welshman, educated at St. Bees who arrived at Kingston on the last day of Sept. 1778.   He had great difficulty in reaching his destination.   After long waiting at Quebec he was only able to get passage on a sloop carrying Government stores; amongst others 100 barrels of gunpowder.   No fire was allowed on board. They ran aground in the river, and were twelve days reaching Montreal.   From Montreal he had to walk to Lachine, and thence up the river, sometimes on foot, and sometimes in an open boat.   The first night he slept in a hay-mow, another night on a bare floor without covering; "another night," he says, "I had my abode in the woods, but I could not lie down, as it rained," and thus till he reached Kingston. Mr. Langhorn was appointed Missionary on the Bay of Quinte, where about 1500 people were living.   "Four-fifths of these," he says, "were dissenters of nine or ten different denominations."   They were scattered over a country of forty miles square.   He had about ten different congregations whom he visited regularly on foot.   He never kept a horse; he used to sling his surplice and necessary outfit in a knapsack on his back, and so set forth on foot to visit his scattered flocks.

A Commemorative Plaque was erected by the Ontario Archaeological and Historic Sites Board on the grounds of St. John's Anglican Church, 212 Church Street, Bath, Ontario.   It reads:

1744 - 1817

Born in Wales, Langhorn was appointed missionary to Ernesttown and Fredericksburgh townships in 1787.   He thus became the first resident Anglican clergyman in the Bay of Quinte region, and the second in what is now Ontario.   Although of somewhat eccentric character, he proved to be a tireless supporter of his faith during the twenty-six years he served in this area.   He was largely responsible for the erection of St. Paul's Church at Sandhurst in 1791, St. Warburg's in Fredericksburgh in 1792 and the second St. John's at Bath in 1793-95.   The hardships he endured undermined his health and Langhorn returned to England in 1813.

For the first two years he had no other provision than the £50 allowed by the Society.   He used to call upon every new family that came into the district, and so won many estranged ones back to the Church.   He was quite indifferent to the bodily comforts of bed or board.   On one occasion, failing to reach the house where he was accustomed to stop till after the family had retired, he made himself a bed of straw in a farm wagon rather than disturb them, where he was found fast asleep when they went to their work in the morning.   At every service he catechized the young and taught them their prayers in the face of the congregation.   He was bold in rebuking vice, and strictly enforced the discipline of the Church, excluding evil-livers from the Communion.  

He had a strong dislike for all dissenters, Roman and protestant; he would not eat with their ministers, nor walk on the same side of the road.   An old Presbyterian minister living at Fredericksburg had much respect for Mr. Langhorn's honesty and earnestness, and had made repeated endeavours to be on brotherly terms with him, but his advances were invariably repulsed.   "One day," he says, "riding on horse back, when the roads were exceedingly bad, and walking a labour, I overtook the old gentleman in a wood, and much of our roads then lay through the woods.   He appeared much exhausted with walking, and well might he be, for there was a wall of trees on either side, which prevented the circulation of the air, and the sun's rays were pouring down with great intensity.   Now, thought I, his reverence is fatigued, and I will avail myself of the opportunity of making friends with him by offering him my horse; so I rode up and addressed him, Good-day to you, Mr. Langhorn.'   He soon gave me to understand that he was not obliged to me for my salutation.   However, I thought at all hazards I would carry out my intention, and so proceeded--'It is a very warm day, sir, and the roads are bad, and you appear fatigued; allow me to offer you my horse.   He again stopped, and eyeing me very seriously, said, 'Sir, you are a promoter of schism in the flock of Christ, I cannot therefore have any intercourse with you, much less accept any favour from you.   So I left him."   No wonder that he was described by the Bishop of Nova Scotia as uncouth, and little acquainted with the world, but as a conscientious and honest man.  

Whenever he entered the house of a Churchman, he gave the Apostolic Benediction, "Peace be to this house and to all that dwell in it."   The Dissenting teachers here used to take advantage of his rough exterior and want of fluency of speech to attack him on some controverted passage.   This used to annoy him at first, but he soon hit upon a remedy.   He carried about with him a pocket edition of the Greek Testament, and when any preacher attempted to entrap him in a controversy, he would hand him the book and ask him to read that passage in the original, and then when he could not, Mr. Langhorn would say, "You see, my good friends, the folly of listening to a teacher who cannot read the language in which the New Testament was written."   They soon ceased attacking him.

For his health's sake and to brace his nerves, he used to bathe every morning in Lake Ontario, and this practice he kept up during the coldest days of winter, even when the ice was two feet thick, and he could only get his morning bath by diving through the holes which had been made for the purpose of watering the cattle.   But whatever might be said of his eccentric or uncouth manners, it was universally allowed that he was a zealous, devoted, humble-minded missionary, and his earnest labours have left their mark in many a life and home.

from History of the Church in Eastern Canada and Newfoundland by John Langtry, M.A., D.C.L., Rector of S. Luke's, Toronto, and Prolocutor of the Provincial Synod of Canada. London, Brighton and New York: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1892.
Arthur Custance
on Prayer
Circle of Faith St Jude's Church, Brantford, Ontario

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